Bryan Fuller Shares Details on Star Trek: Discovery

We chat with Bryan Fuller about the plot and character details of Star Trek: Discovery and get an update on American Gods.

Bryan Fuller presented two upcoming shows to the Television Critics Association this summer: The highly anticipated Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access and the Neil Gaiman adaptation American Gods for Starz. He revealed that the protagonist of Discovery is female, and the show tells the story of an event from Star Trek lore and amused himself with everyone’s guesses as to whether it could be Kobayashi Maru, the Romulan War or black ops Section 31.

Afterwards, Fuller stayed to field more questions from reporters. He took playful joy in teasing some answers, in that impish Bryan Fuller way that made shows like Hannibal and Pushing Daisies such macabre fun. Both Star Trek: Discovery and American Gods premiere in 2017 but here’s your tease from Fuller himself. 

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What is this Starfleet event? 

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You have to ask a specific question.

Is it Axanar? 

I actually don’t know what the history of Axanar is. 

When fans find out what it is, will diehard Trekkers go, “Oh, of course?” 

Yeah, they should be very happy. I am. It’s something I want to see.

Is it something from canon?

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Yes. 

Is it referenced in the original series? 

Yeah, yeah. It’s only referenced. Nobody has seen this event.

Could we see Captain Pike out of his chair? 

We could try. There’s so much about the history that once we get through this first season and establish our own Star Trek universe with a crew that is going to be reimagining a lot of Star Trek elements, we’ll be looking in the second season to open it up to more familiar characters and how they could feed into the weave, but first and foremost, I think we really want to convince you and establish the greatness of the characters that are going to be introduced. 

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You said you love Amanda Grayson. Could we see her in the first season of Discovery?

Possibly. The Amanda Grayson thing is just something that we’re in that timeline where that character could factor in, but there’s much to be told. 

Your lead is a woman. Could the Captain be a woman or person of color? 

We haven’t cast the person yet. 

Well, you’re writing the person. You might not specify race but you’d specify gender.

Not the way I write characters. 

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Is your lead character a Starfleet member? 

She’s a member of Starfleet. 

What is her rank? 

Lieutenant commander with caveats.

How many lead characters are in the show? 

Gosh, it’s a big cast. It’s standard with the Star Trek casts, about seven.

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This will be the first Star Trek series doing less than 22 episodes a season. How will that make Discovery different?

Well, I think with modern storytelling, particularly in a serialized world, that to sustain one story over 22 episodes is going to be really challenging. But to sustain it over 10 or 13, you can be much more cohesive and you don’t have to worry about treading water and storylines that take tangents that aren’t really about the bigger picture. So it allows us to just focus on what’s important in the story. 

Why was this timeline attractive, rather than going forward from Voyager? 

I think for me, since we are doing this series in 2016 and all of the other series have been produced in a timeline that isn’t as sophisticated as we are now with what we can do production-wise, we’re going to be re-establishing an entire look for the series. Not only for the series, but also for what we want to accomplish with Star Trek beyond the series. So we have to start early on with a touch point where people can understand and have access into it, show them how we’re re-imagining Star Trek and then hold their hand as we pull them into hopefully a lot of different iterations of different timelines beyond what we have seen. 

Are you inventing any new aliens in the Trek universe?

Yes.

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Could you describe one for us?

It’s a character named Saru who has… a wide… it’s a character named Saru.

How much are you looking at actors you’ve worked with on previous series when you’re casting Star Trek: Discovery? 

There are a lot of folks that we’re trying to figure out if their schedules are going to permit their participation. 

Lee Pace would make one hell of a Vulcan.

I agree. 

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The Discovery looks different, but will people still recognize the ship as a Star Trek ship?

Yes, it’s a saucer section. Cells and the design that we leaked early on have changed considerably, but it’s still very much inspired by those Ralph McQuarrie illustrations of, I think, Planet of the Titans was the name of the abandoned movie in the mid-70s. But there are a lot of really cool illustrations of that area that if you’re curious, do a Google for Ralph McQuarrie and Star Trek.

Does it take place mostly on a ship, on Earth or on a planet?

It’s not on Earth. It’s not on a planet.

Do the 13 episodes cover a definitive timeframe? 

Yes, there is a timeframe. 

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How closely have you been working with Neil Gaiman on American Gods? 

He’s very collaborative and one of the things that is great for Michael [Green] and I, for instance when we were crafting the finale of the series, there were certain things where Neil was like, “I’m uncomfortable going to this point or this point.” Then we had a conversation about how we would get to those points and how we could basically give him what he wanted but also put in a few of the things we were driving toward. He’s always yes and. 

Was there anything he unlocked for you about his original graphic novels? 

Yeah, without getting into too many specifics, we asked him to explain something in the book and we both looked at each other and said, “I didn’t get that from the book.” It’s helpful to have somebody who can explain all those things.

What is the episodic structure of American Gods? 

We like to open with the Coming to Americas and then delve into the different characters. Most of the time you see that Coming to America character enter into the narrative in a greater way. So we love that structure. It gives us something really fun to build to and also that’s easily identifiable in a way.